DOBSON — During a pair of preseason scrimmages for a Surry Central girls basketball team that was thought by most to be in a rebuilding mode this season, the Lady Eagles’ players slowly came to realize something.
You can call this season whatever you want — a team in transition, a rebuilding team, whatever. One thing you won’t be able to call them is bad.
If you think they will be, just because they’re young, be prepared for a bad outcome if you step onto a court with Surry Central this winter.
“After our last scrimmage, we all realized that we could compete with anyone, that we should be right there at the end of the game with everyone we play,” said head coach Mandy Holt. “We’re not setting specific goals as to how many games we expect to win, but we expect to have a chance to win every night.”
This is probably not what casual observers expected to hear out of Dobson this season. The Lady Eagles came into this season anticipating the return of just five players from last year 21-6 co-champions of the Western Piedmont 2-A Conference. The returnees include one starter, senior guard Makenzie Mooney.
Making matters even tougher for Surry Central, sophomore Jessica Shuck went down with a recurrence of an anterior cruciate ligament tear. The injury is expected to sideline her for the entire season, a bitter pill for both her and her teammates. Shuck was expected to play a significant role on this year’s team after having missed most of last season with the same injury.
Even so, Holt finds herself with a talented 10-player roster, and the only thing they need is experience.
“The more experience on the varsity level we get, the better off we’re going to be,” she said. “But we expect to be able to compete against anybody we play against. Looking at our conference, we’re still looking to compete right at the top. We’ll have to battle with North Surry and Forbush, they look like the top two teams. But we can.”
Holt will rely on her three returning seniors to provide leadership on a team that has a freshman and six sophomores, all of whom should see playing time this season. In addition to Mooney, who projects as the team’s starting shooting guard after earning honorable mention all-conference honors last year, classmates Alora Largen and Mallory Wilmoth should check into the lineup.
“We’re kind of expecting (Mooney) to pick up some of the scoring that graduated last year,” said Holt. “Mallory can play at the forward and center positions. She’s a great shooter, but she also has a lot of basketball intelligence, and hopefully she will provide some of our rebounding for us. Alora got a lot of playing time last year. We’re hoping she can play some on the wing and some underneath as well.
“My three seniors will have to lead this team, and they understand what is expected of them after seeing what last year’s seniors did.”
The team’s only junior, Ford, is in her second varsity season. Holt has tabbed her as the team’s point guard this season.
Even though the rest of the team is very inexperienced at the varsity level, Holt had good things to say about what she’s seen in them.
Sophomores Taylor Coe, Edi Nixon and Brooke Snow will provide depth in the frontcourt.
“(Taylor) is a tall young lady, and her athleticism is really coming along,” said Holt. “She’s also a terrific volleyball player, and we’re looking for good things from her, both scoring and rebounding as well. Edi Nixon and Brooke Snow can each play the forward or center position, and they will provide us with some added height.”
In the backcourt, sophomores Claire Via and Hannah Beasley and freshman Taylor Cochran round out the varsity roster.
“Via is quick as a cat and able to defend the other team’s ball-handlers,” said Holt. “We think she can really help us out in that area. Hannah is a great shooter, and she’s also a kid with a great basketball IQ. We’re trying to get her some experience and get her into the mix. Cochran has really long arms for a guard, and she’s going to be a great defensive presence for us. We’re looking for big things from her.”
The Lady Eagles will be the first team from the county to officially begin their season. Surry Central opens up on Tuesday night at North Wilkes. Their first home game will take place in the fourth game of the season, Dec. 2 against Mount Airy.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.